What is this concept of mindfulness and how do we achieve it in our crazy, busy lives? It’s the antidote for stress and a great way to re-balance your life.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness suggests that your mind is fully in the present moment. When our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body and pretty soon we are engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that has just happened or worrying about something that may or may not happen. This in turn, makes us extremely anxious which contributes to our stress levels.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing. We are not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us. It is a form of basically switching off and being present in the moment only. Hence, the phrase “just be.”
When we are mindful, we can reduce stress, enhance performance, gain better clarity and awareness through observing our own mind. Mindfulness also increases our attention to our overall sense of wellbeing.
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So how can mindfulness help to reduce stress?
There is mounting scientific evidence which strongly suggests that mindfulness not only reduces stress but also gently builds an inner strength so that future stressors have less impact on our happiness and physical wellbeing.
- Mindfulness helps you to become more aware of your thoughts. You can take a step back from them and put things in to perspective. That way, your stress response is not activated in the first instance.
- You do not immediately react to a situation. Instead, you have a moment to pause which then gives you time to come up with a better solution. Mindfulness helps you do this through mindful exercises.
- Mindfulness switches on your “being“ state of mind which is linked with relaxation. Your “doing” state of mind is linked with action and the stress response.
- You become more aware of your body. Hence, you may notice more muscle tenseness faster than you previously have.
- You have heightened senses to your own needs. Meaning you become more emotionally tuned in which can pick up stress triggers more easily.
- Mindfulness practice reduces activity in the part of your brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is central to switching on your stress response, so effectively, your background level of stress is reduced.
- Mindfulness enables you to focus better so you are more likely to lift yourself out of feeling stressed if your ability to focus is stronger.
- Mindfulness offers you the opportunity to switch your negative thoughts in to positive ones. Mindfulness offers a greater space to think differently about the stress itself and certainly helps you to change your attitude.
- Observing a state of mindfulness helps to energize you which in turn, has a positive effect on your body and mind.
A Mindful Breathing Exercise to Reduce Stress
This exercise is a great way to calm yourself in a stressful moment. The most basic way to do this is by mindful breathing as it is simple to focus your attention on your breath. You focus on the inhale and the exhale. You can do this while standing or walking. However, the most effective way to do this is by sitting in a comfortable position. Your eyes may be open or they may be closed. However, maintaining your focus may be easier if your eyes are closed.
When you are trying to calm yourself, it is helpful to start by taking a very deep, slow breath. Inhale deeply through your nostrils for 3 seconds, hold your breath for 2 seconds and then a long exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds. Do this a few times so you can begin to focus your attention on your breath. Once you have done that, you are ready to begin.
Here’s What To Do:
1) Sit in a relaxed and comfortable position. Keep your back upright, but not stiff. Rest your hands wherever they feel comfortable.
2) Notice and relax your body. Try to notice the shape of your body, it’s weight, the softness of the chair. Notice any sensations such as the feeling of your feet on the floor. The touch of your hands resting in your lap. Relax any tension in your body. Clear your mind of all thoughts.
3) Just breathe. Feel the natural flow of your breath. Feel it flowing in and flowing out. You do not need to do anything with your breath. Just be natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. Is it in your abdomen? Is it in your chest or your throat? See if you can feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time. Notice when one breath ends and one breath begins.
4) As you are doing this, you may notice your thoughts begin to wander. You may start to think of other things. This is completely natural, especially when you are stressed. However, return your thoughts to your breathing. Focus again on your breath as you breathe in and as you breathe out.
5) Stay here in this state for at least 5 minutes. Let yourself relax even more deeply and when you are ready to leave this state, add on some positive self-talk such as “I feel calm” and “I feel relaxed.”
The more you practise this exercise, the more benefits you will begin to see. As with anything, it takes time and repetition to benefit from maximum results.
Do you practice mindfulness? Tell us in the comments below.